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Trade Deficit Confirms Weaker Q1 GDP

  • Written by Syndicated Publisher 1 Comment1 Comment Comments
    May 16, 2012

    trade-deficit-051012When the first estimate of Q1 GDP was released we wrote“Given the impact from higher oil and gas prices on the economy, which is a real and pervasive tax on the consumer as discussed recently, it is highly likely that we will see downward revisions to Q1 GDP in the next two months.”  Today’s release of the trade data confirms this will be likely.

    The U.S. trade deficit widened much more than expected in March as imports surged to a record high.  This is a negative to the GDP calculation which takes into account net exports(exports minus imports) as part of the calculation.  Furthermore, the trade gap grew 14.1 percent to $51.8 billion which is the biggest jump within a year.

    The bigger-than-expected rise follows government data on Wednesday that showed wholesale inventories grew less than expected in March.  This data supports our expectations that 1st quarter GDP will come in somewhere between 1.25 and 1.75 percent annual growth rate by the time we see the final revisions.  This is far weaker than current analyst expectations and will be the clarion call for more “QE” from the Fed.

    U.S. imports jumped 5.2 percent in March, the biggest gain since January 2011, to $238.6 billion.  The increase in imports corresponds with the recent surge in consumer credit, borrowed dollars are going somewhere, as increases were seen in both goods and services.  This surge in imports also supports the recent reports on German manufacturing which was supported almost entirely by orders outside the Eurozone.

    We stated in our first look at GDP that the impact of higher oil prices and a lower dollar would be a negative to the future revisions.  Average prices for imported oil pushed to $107.95 per barrel and the dollar declined slightly from the beginning of the year increasing pressures. These are clear negatives to the upcoming revisions of GDP.

    trade-deficit-imports-exports-gdp-051012On the domestic front U.S. exports also rose by 2.9 percent to $186.8 billion.  However, in a sign of concern for the U.S. manufacturers, the rate of growth in exports continues to deteriorate along with prices received.  This does not bode well for continued earnings’ growth as margin pressures remain a concern.  The chart shows export prices less import prices.  The declines in net export prices erodes corporate profitability and eventually affects the market and the economy.  While the economy has was able to fend off these pressures before the last recession due to the credit and real estate boom – today that defense comes from continued injections of stimulus from the Fed.  However, the pervasive disparity in net prices is one of the reasons there continues to be diminished returns from each round of stimulus.

    The indications are that the economy is weaker than the current headlines suggest and in the coming months we are likely to see continued reversals in the overall macroeconomic data.  This, of course, will provide the Fed with the much needed ammunition to launch additional stimulative programs to bolster the economy in the short run but the long term effects continue to appear to be deleterious.

    Images: Flickr (licence attribution)

    About The Author

    Lance Roberts – Host of Streettalk Live

    lance robertsAfter having been in the investing world for more than 25 years from private banking and investment management to private and venture capital; Lance has pretty much “been there and done that” at one point or another. His common sense approach has appealed to audiences for over a decade and continues to grow each and every week.

    Lance is also the Chief Editor of the X-Report, a weekly subscriber based-newsletter that is distributed nationwide. The newsletter covers economic, political and market topics as they relate to the management portfolios. A daily financial blog, audio and video’s also keep members informed of the day’s events and how it impacts your money.

    Lance’s investment strategies and knowledge have been featured on Fox 26, CNBC, Fox Business News and Fox News. He has been quoted by a litany of publications from the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Washington Post all the way to TheStreet.com as well as on several of the nation’s biggest financial blogs such as the Pragmatic Capitalist, Zero Hedge and Seeking Alpha.